A year since we said goodbye.

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And they do insist you say goodbye. I wrote her a letter using photos of her life, and did as I was supposed to, sat down and broke both of our hearts a little more.  This is the last photo of both of us I have.

The grief over the year that has followed has been the hardest and most awful thing I have ever experienced, and all the worst for being private, unnatural and atypical.  This grief is so complex, grieving despite my girl being alive and, as far as I am allowed to know, thriving, settled and happy. Despite even the hope of seeing her again one day – a hope of which I do not allow myself to live for, because I have no control over how things are explained to her, how black I am painted, or the different person who by 18+ she will be.

Losing my mum less that 3 years ago has taught me a fair few things about grief.  It taught me that grief changes.  Not in logical progression through the grief cycle, although that describes some of the places it takes you.  But it shifts as the months pass, and when you look back over bigger sections of time, 6 months, a year, 2 years, you can see the changes in feeling and thinking.  To lose a parent is in the natural order of things – although my mum at 60 was younger than most of us hope that our parents will live to, it is right for us to mourn the passing of our parents.  But just as no-one should ever have to lose a child, sometimes the worst grief is of the intangible, the things you never realised you had until they were gone, like health, and purpose, and what might have been.

C.S.Lewis’s ‘A Grief Observed’, which I read after my mum died, has actually been far more useful since my daughter went.  He writes:

I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

This resonates with my experience – and whilst there have been some joys this past year, they are always tinged with the sudden remembering that this ‘living with grief’, like a greyness that shrouds my soul, is never far off.  I wonder if getting to resolution (or acceptance) requires being able to shrug off the “why?”s and the “what if”s.  The “why” – why me, why did a certain person behave like they did, why is addiction so hard to understand – I think I do ok with.  The”what if”s can be excruciating.  I’m not proud of these thoughts, as I think they walk too close for comfort to self-sabotage, or playing God, but they are slow to remove, moment by painful moment, guided by an excellent counselling relationship through which the Holy Spirit is most powerfully at work.

I talk about her in general conversation less these days.  Initially I couldn’t help it, and it made clear the difficulties of reconciling in the listeners’ minds that I was the parent that potty trained my daughter alone, and handled being left at nursery anxieties, and was pretty clued up on which way to cycle with your little one at what age, and also that same person that could not stop drinking under Social Services scrutiny even when the greatest reason for motivation hung in the balance, and then let that little girl go, for a life that I felt I couldn’t provide.  Admittedly I haven’t got to meet many birth parents, and I am sure there are many that don’t have quite such a dichotomy in their actions, and seemingly within their souls.  But I have found where my safe places are, with those who can sit with spiritual unrest that has no glib answers, where I can let myself feel and remember this beautiful little girl, who remains my greatest pride and joy, and express this odd, hot, painful, twisted grief, for a girl that is gone and yet still there, a grief that, unlike my other experiences of grief, is resolving incredibly slowly, and still burns intensely and deeply.

Where is God in all of this?  He remains my comfort in the anger and pain, my defender against Satan having a field day with my guilt and shame, and my heavenly Father, who hears me when I cry, praying for my daughter’s peace, growth and joy in her new life, and with whom I can be utterly vulnerable in my bewilderment at losing my “best big girl”, praying she is in His safekeeping, both now and always.

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8 Responses to A year since we said goodbye.

  1. Wendy says:

    I knew the mother who rode around with her child on her bike, keeping her safe and close.
    I knew the mother who encouraged her daughters creativity and read books to her.
    I knew the mother who gave as best she could in extremely difficult circumstances – working in a highly pressurised job alone and isolated.
    I knew the mother who loved and loves her daughter unconditionally.
    I knew the daughter, happy and relaxed and laughing.
    I feel for the separation of this mother and child acutely and admire the mother for the steps she has taken.
    And I send wishes of hope for the mother and daughter until they meet again. Xxxx

  2. lastmum says:

    Such a beautifully written and eloquent post. I’m thinking of you at this time, and I’m so sorry
    Lilka xx

  3. frogotter says:

    Such a moving post. Thank you for sharing.

  4. louisemensch says:

    Dear lady,

    Keep all your memories safe. Write them down so they don’t fade. Be aware that after 18, there is still a lifetime of motherhood and daughterhood. Write her letters and seal them. Stay sober. Work hard. Start thinking of yourself as still her mother. Hold on to that day she turns 18 and you can contact her again. For example, what was she best at at school? Maybe she will read that at university. You could start saving a little for a college fund for her. Think of her life as a student when you can be there. Think of her whole life, of when you lost her, until she dies. What percentage will you have missed out on? If she was 8 when you lost her, that will be 10% gone – for 90% of the time, you can still be there for her, mother and child, just as you were intended to be.

    In the ‘gap years’, work on recovering the woman you were before alcohol stole that from you. Get fit; be strong. Work hard. Love life. Prepare to be the best student mother that you can be. And remember too that something may happen in the interim that will enable you to see her sooner than you think.

    Lastly; keep reminding yourself that you haven’t lost her, you are separated from her for a number of years. Remember that each passing year she’s a different age. Try to focus on her, not on that photo, so that when you see her at 18 or even sooner, it’s not a shock to you – you weren’t expecting the younger her back, just the real her, as she is.

    And be kind to yourself – as I am sure she would want you to be. There’s always a future for love.

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you for taking the time to post so much, a great deal of what you say is helpful and is a way I’ve not really thought about things before.
      I don’t believe that living for contacting her at 18 is wise though. From what I’ve been told, I wait until she wants to contact me, if she ever does. I leave my details with AfterAdoption and the Local Authority, and until then keep writing. It’s not usually successful when birth family push reunions at 18 and so I’m not going to do that or live for that.
      You are right that I need to concentrate on who she will become though, and continuing to add to her Trust Fund whether she knows it’s from me or not.

  5. Kondwani says:

    God bless you. He promises to ‘restore the years the locusts have eaten’. I don’t know what that will look like, but the posts reminding you that there is life after 18 are worth holding onto. God may surprise you with joy in that relationship. But at the same time, I am not a ‘prosperity’ type person. I have seen pain, loss and anguish that cannot be restored this side of heaven. And thinking of heaven and eternity, the fact you pray for your daughter, that you provided those spiritual foundations during your time together, these things are of immeasurable value.

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